To eat them! The tradition goes back to the Middle Ages.
Whale hunting is officially banned today, but Japan has never really stopped.
So why this persistence?
Up to the 20th century, it was Norway that hunted whales the most, using the oil in industry and for lighting.
After the Second World War, whale meat fed the starving Japanese population. The number of whales caught skyrocketed.
The survival of the species was in danger. So, as from 1986, commercial whale hunting was banned.
But Japan got round the ban and continued to hunt whales in the Antarctic… supposedly for scientific purposes.
The United Nations Organization finally asked countries to stop hunting whales.
Japan didn’t agree. In December 2018, they said they would start commercial whale hunting again.
They would no longer hunt whales in the Antarctic, but in their own territorial waters.
This decision was taken for reasons of politics and national pride: Japan didn’t want to be dictated to by other countries.
But in reality, nowadays, the Japanese hardly eat whale meat at all!
If people don’t buy it, whale hunting could very well stop… on its own!